Tuesday, 23 September 2014


Well we all woke up early and that’s a fact.
You can’t really not when you’ve got a small mosque about two hundred yards away and a quite large one about four hundred yards away.
The small one starts the call to prayers at five-thirty and they are louder than the larger one so anybody looking to sleep in would probably need ear-muffs, but at least it means we get first go in the shower for the hot water.
We had asked everybody over the course of the previous week to PLEASE not hang about in the morning because we would be at certain places along the route to pick people up at particular times, but there’s always going to be one who doesn’t make it and has to get there under their own power.
A quick breakfast and before you can turn around Ida is here from over the road.
I’m not sure how well the plates got washed up by the smaller contingent of the family but then we can always yell at them tomorrow !!!
The people carrier is here with the guys so numbers two to seven have just been accomplished.

Amadou will be at the top of the road and Fat’ Cham is nowhere in sight.

Jali Bakary and Mariettou we pick up further along on the road to Sanyang where we will be stopping for provisions.

Right, the gang is nearly all here, so let’s get it on…
Amadou is now in, and Jali and Mariettou are waiting for us outside the small provision shop at Chinchu Alagie.

It’s a bit of a nuisance the kids not having armbands for the sea having left them in a taxi on a previous occasion, but it can’t be helped and since we are officially about a month outside the holiday season we can’t expect any of the shops to have any.
It just means that I’m going to be one bruised and scratched Dad after going in with them.
If any of the others go in I know it’ll be later in the afternoon but children who see water ALWAYS seem to want to get in it as soon as they can, and ours are no exception.
Of course when the first big wave hits then they’ll all grab me to hang on to…
Hence the bruises.

While we’re at Tanje (pronounced tan-gee, as in whiz) Amadou asks if I know the track that he’s been blasting into his ears via his headphones ?
It’s definitely something that both his Mother and I have been known to blast out on occasions, and I suppose singing the chorus back at him gave the game away somewhat…
‘Honey you shake, I’ll rattle, we can roll on down the line… See if we can’t get in touch with a very close friend of mine… ‘
Well that’s all you’re getting, so do you know what it is ?
It’s a ‘classic’ album track from the second album.
Any fan of ‘Classic Rock’ from the nineteen seventies should be able to place it and I can’t be arsed to tell you, but bless him, Amadou thinks it’s the dog’s dangly bits (I’m being polite, ok ?) and he’s really got into it.
Funny how some artists just seem to get under people’s skin ?
So far we’ve got Mum, Mariama and Amadou into this guy’s music and they all like different songs, but that’s the great thing about music.
It crosses all borders of country, race, colour, religion, and any other damned obstacle that people have a habit of throwing in your way as we all stagger blindly from one world crisis to another…
It turns out Amadou has got the complete double greatest hits cd on his iPod.
See… Our family have good taste.
If you can’t get the track from the chorus then you’re either no rock fan or far too young,  and you can google it if you want the artist, cos I’m not an information service for ‘Failed Rock fans…’
Oh, I like that.
Failed Rock fans.
Great expression, and I might have to use it again sometime ?
That’s pissed off a few of you, no doubt ?
Oh well… Tough !
Jeezus H !!!
Haddy has just come around the corner with probably the largest melon I have literally ever seen in my life ?
Bloody thing is gonna need a seat of its own at that size ?
Ok, stash the melon.
Buy a bit more…
Still no children’s armbands or even rings but at least we tried.
Not far to go now because you can actually see Sanyang from the fish market.
And we’re there.
Bumping along the sandy track down to Leybato…

First things first and the younger ones insist on getting changed because they want to go swimming.

They’ll have to wait for about an hour before we let them in as I have a couple of jobs to do in the way of helping with the food.

So after a bit of lazing about the first game of Ludo started up...

Of course as soon as we turn up, the dogs materialise also.

Now there are two ways of looking at the dogs on the beach if you’re a tourist.
All the guidebooks tell you the sensible one and usually we do the other.
If anything was to go wrong then yes, it’ll be down to us, but so far it hasn’t and so long as we keep being kind then there really is no reason to think that it would.
Ok, let’s give you the gen and you can make your own minds up ?
The guidebooks tell you that you must stay away from the dogs who roam the beaches because they have turned feral, will probably bite because they’ve been badly treated and could have rabies ?
This is all true.
Any one of those could be true, if not all of them ?
However, since we’ve been coming here we have seen about three families go from young dog to adulthood.
They don’t tend to last long because the snakes go for their puppies and the adults tend to die defending the pups.
Originally they will have been beaten and cut by the local beach dwellers including the bumsters and the fishermen.
Some will have their tails cut off and some their ears, but they do respond to kindness.
When I first started feeding them back when Haddy’s eldest daughter Fatou was working here she nearly had a pink fit when I asked for a bowl of water for the dogs and all the food that we would otherwise have thrown away to feed them.
I figured that if we fed them then they’d hang about and keep the rat population away ?
And it worked, they did.
At the time we were the only beach bar without a rat problem because Fatou followed my lead and kept them fed and watered.

Unfortunately, now that her Father has let it go to rack and ruin after she and Haddy made a success of it we might have to do it all over again, but while we are here we will keep our side of the bargain.

And it seems to work.
These dogs ARE feral and there’s no doubt about that, but they respond to kindness.
None of our lot will chase them away or beat them AND they can have a fresh drink of water without going into the scrubland and mixing it with the snakes, AND, they seem to appreciate it ?
Obviously I’m not suggesting that you ‘diss’ the guidebook’s advice, but surely a better way is just to be friendly ?
They got little of that from their original owners and that’s for sure.
If in doubt then stay away is good advice, but what if you have no doubts ?
I know it sounds strange but I’m glad they are there and that they come back to see us when we arrive.
The beach is a few miles long so they could range anywhere, but they seem to like Leybato and that’s fine with us.

Even our Gambian guys don’t chase them away now.
It’s a small thing in the grand scheme of things but I think we’re doing the right thing.
Only time will tell.
Anyway, first we have to sort out the important stuff and get the ataya (pronounced attire) on...

Then it's time for me to start work.

Having done my chores (grating cabbage and carrot) which has now been taken over by Amadou, I am finally allowed to change and have a bit of fun…
The guys are nipping back up the road to buy fresh fish caught this morning which they will then prepare.
Aliou Bah is the main man as far as ‘chef-ing’ is concerned with Kawsu in reserve but they know what they’re doing.
Ok, the sun is up, the water is warm so last one in is a cissy.
Probably can’t say that in this politically correct age, but do I give a toss ?
And I got absolutely hammered…
There's another one coming...

Urrrrgh... That was cold...

Ida is by far the worst out of the three of them.

Call that cold... What a wuss...

She’s also the biggest, so it doesn’t bode well when she grabs hold as the waves come in.

I'll give you wuss, you cheeky so and so...

To be fair to Ida,  Mariama and Jalika have had a lot more experience in water and I managed about an hour before I needed to get out, and to tell you the truth I was knackered.
I left the kids with Housai’ watching over them.

Anybody going further out than waist height will be dragged out and won’t be allowed in the sea again.
They’ve been warned but they’ll be alright for a bit in the shallows.
Time to dry off before a lunchtime snack.
And finally…
Fat Cham has arrived.
She definitely missed the bus…
(And she’s not fat either, it’s short for Fatou…)
And so, typically because it’s food time, has Ali.

Ali lives at Sanyang anyway, and I think Haddy asked him to pop over because he makes the wristbands which she gives out to our friends at Cropredy and to others so honoured.
Today he’ll be making about ten plus one special one each for the little ones.
No problem.

Ok, let’s eat.
The lunchtime snack is the fish they bought when we arrived, with the aforementioned cabbage and carrot mix as the ‘salad’.
This is then liberally sluiced with lime juice and black pepper and it tastes ok to one who’d never had it before.
Ok, I’d have preferred lettuce and tomato, but it’s what we could get and beggars can’t be choosers…
I got ‘Ladyfish’.
The picture below is out of sequence and was actually taken at the compound but it will give you some idea of the sizes of these things.

At the bottom is a Ladyfish and above that is a Barracuda
 And, as usual, the piece was bloody enormous.
How do people eat all that ?
I can’t, and that’s a fact.
Haddy had barracuda and that wasn't small either.

Haddy's barracuda

(You can actually buy frozen barracuda steaks in the UK now, check your local African or Asian grocer...) 
I can’t see the dogs getting any either, certainly not with this lot about…
I do however have to pay tribute to my fellow chefs because it was absolutely delicious.

It’s after lunch, and now the three little monsters are going to have to wait an enforced hour after they’ve eaten and so they are going for a walk with Amadou down the beach before hitting the sea again.

Ali has eaten, done his bit with the wristbands and been paid for his efforts and now he’s off to see a couple of his mates further down the beach.
Of course the little ones and Amadou have now vanished into the distance somewhere, so guess who got the job of going to look for them ?
Yep !
Got it in one…
The problem with me going is that I’m a sitting target for every bloody bumster on the beach and I can tell you now, it gets very tedious just saying ‘No thank you’ or ‘No thanks, I’m looking for my kids… You haven’t seen three little girls and their elder brother have you ?’ and all they want to do is sell you something, so they’re not really interested.
It’s that bloody ‘screw the toubab’ thing again.
I’m in swimming gear and a t-shirt and I’m NOT carrying any money but as they say, they can call around for it later…
I don’t think so.
About a couple of miles down the beach they are finally located and informed that Mum has sent the search party, so could they please return and put her mind at rest, thank you ?
It’s hard work walking on that sand.
It’s red hot for starters, so the walk back is through the wet stuff with the sea rippling at my feet.
You ever walked a couple of miles through wet sand with the waves trickling over your feet ?
It takes twice as long as it did to get there because your feet sink into the sand.
And of course, you are then a target for every bumster on the beach to have another go…
How I managed to remain polite has eluded me, but I did.
Sod it.
I need a drink and fruit juice will do very well, thank you.

Now of course the kids want to go in the sea again…
Oh well, assume supervisory duties and try and get them out when they start shivering which will probably be in about another hour’s time.
It’s a great life if you don’t weaken…

It’s food time again and so it’s time to get the kids out of the water and dried off and then it’s steamed and grilled chicken with the same salad.

Not bad at all…

And I’m used to the cabbage and carrot mix now.
So there I was, videoing everything going on, when the guys changed the subject they had been talking about to music.
Specifically, Gambian music.
I know a few words in Wolof and I really wanted them to switch to English so I could put my two pennies worth into the conversation as well, but as usual, Haddy saved the day and we didn’t even turn the camera off.
The complete conversation is on video and I include it here because these guys and me are on the same wavelength when it comes to Gambian music.
And the reason I’m talking slowly is because English is not their native tongue and I want them to understand what I’m talking about.
If I’d just hit them with my usual fifty mile an hour rat-a-tat-tat speech pattern then they wouldn’t have got most of it, and this was important, to me at least.
If you watch it and think you have a point to make then please get in touch via the blog’s comment section, but I warn you now, I don’t do anonymous users.
Too many of them love flinging insults (usually heavily racist) and I can’t be bothered with them.
There are far too many floating about, and their mindless and gutless comments hiding under their cloak of anonymity piss me off, so I sorted the blog so it won’t accept them.
Anybody sending a comment is welcome to do so, but I can do without mindless arseholes.
(Couldn’t we all ?)
Anyway, here ‘tis…
What do you reckon ?
It does throw up a few points, especially about reggae but I think we covered most bases ?
It also makes me think that I’d love to work with ‘Pa Lie’ on something out there.
I reckon we could do something to prove our point ?
Oh yeah, for those who have blundered in here by accident or because you’ve clicked on something that looked interesting to you, here’s a link to one of those films that my wife made about the Afro Manding guys that I mentioned in the conversation.
They’re both on Youtube but I actually like the ‘look’ of the first one she shot.
If you’re one of the regular readers (and I know there’s a few) then you’ve probably seen one if not both of them already.
If not, then it’s just a practice session without the kora player and vocalist who returns on the second one in which we lose one drummer and the balofon player due to circumstances beyond their control.
Is that it ?
This bloody post is going on for ever, I hear you cry ?
Errr… Actually no.
But there is a little more, he says, hesitantly…

Ok, it’s late afternoon and the little ones are finally out of the water.
Now it’s time for a couple of wrestling bouts…

Waste of time.

I would have put my money on Kawsu and I would have won, just like he did…

They’re a lovely bunch of nutters, this lot.
I love them to bits.
Friends, colleagues in a couple of things, teachers…

Pa Lie, Fat' Cham and Mariama at back
What can I say ?
But they are definitely utterly mad sometimes, and this was one of those ‘sometimes’.
Some of you have read some of the earlier posts in which I mention the family’s ‘Initiation ceremony’.
If you haven’t, then what I suggest you do is click on the upcoming video link and all will be revealed.
It is of course total madness, but that’s one of the things that all families have hidden away somewhere…
And ours is no exception.
The poor innocent dupe whose turn it is will be given a quick warning, told to kneel, and then it occurs…
And loud screams and yells usually hit the air because it’s bloody cold for a start.
Not that I have yet had it done, I haven’t.
But my time will definitely come.
This year it was Lamin’s turn and also Jali Bakary’s.
I do think it should take place a little earlier in the day because the sea is beginning to cool down by this time.
Yes, you are quite right.
We are all stark raving mad.
But that’s the joy of it, don’t you see ?
Oh, and just to prove a point, here's a still shot taken literally just after it occurred...
Please note the proximity of the two dogs. 

Pa Lie, Dog, Mariattou, Housai' and dog...

Anyway, anything after that is an anti-climax.
Like giving out the ties…

I mean can you think of a more unsuitable place to do it ?
But the guys were all here and in one place and it made sense to Haddy, so why not ?
There’s no arguing with her logic, is there ?

It was time to leave.
I always miss this place when we go.
Probably because Haddy and I came here for our wedding reception ?
It has always been somewhere to go and just chill out for the day.
But it has seen better days under Fatou’s stewardship and then under Haddy’s when her daughter first went to Scotland with her husband.

Somebody should look after it, but Fatou’s Father will not do it.
He is only interested in ‘instant money’ and it shows in what Haddy had put into it, and which has since gone missing, and the state the place is in now.

It is very sad.
I’m glad I haven’t met Fatou’s Father, and I have no wish to either.
The guy is definitely on my ‘shit list’.
(Cue L.7 for their music track… Google it if you have to… Great track)

The three youngest members all fell asleep on the way back home.
Bearing in mind the times they usually go to bed, I think they must be tired out ?
We left a bit later than we were going to, which caused a bit of trepidation as Jali was supposed to be at work that night and when we stopped outside his place of employment he was still wet, ok, he’d changed into his suit whilst in the mini-van, but at least we got him there on time.
And when we finally got back to Fajikunda it was in the middle of a power cut, and we found Awa, back from work, sitting in the middle of the compound with a candle for company…
Typically as soon as we got back the kids woke up.
It had definitely been one of ‘those’ days.

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